How to Compete (and Win) in Today’s Hot Job Market

by Steve Saah

Here are 12 strategies for pulling ahead of your rivals and landing the skilled professionals your company needs.

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Searching for a star recruit to fill an open finance role? So are your competitors. Top candidates are in high demand, and they can afford to pick and choose among employers. 

To get an idea of just how tough the current hiring market is, Robert Half Finance & Accounting recently conducted a survey of U.S. office workers across the country. This is the reality: 59% of the respondents said they’d received two or more offers simultaneously when applying for jobs.

They typically don’t waste time making a decision, either. Of those surveyed, 14% took less than a day to make up their mind, while 44% spent only one to two days before accepting an offer. Salary (72%) and benefits (57%) were by far the biggest influencing factors. 

To succeed in this tough hiring market, you’ll have to move quickly and thoughtfully. Here are 12 strategies for pulling ahead of your rivals and landing the skilled professionals your company needs.

Finding skilled candidates

The candidate pool may be small, but talent is out there. The challenge is to think outside the recruiting box, make your company shine, and identify the applicants who will be good matches for both the job and your organizational culture.

1. Start with a well-written job description. Use clear language to lay out the specific requirements of the role, which will help attract the type and caliber of finance professional you seek.

2. Promote your benefits and perks. Yes, salary is the No. 1 deciding factor for most job seekers, but few companies want to publicize their compensation structure. So do the next best thing and play up your comprehensive health insurance plans, tuition reimbursement, 401(k) matching program and generous paid time off. Do you offer a cool perk like pet insurance or on-site services? Mention them in the posting and on your website. In addition to highlighting your firm’s benefits, bring up career advancement and the support your company provides to groom future leaders.

3. Do the legwork. Your competitors also post solid job descriptions. To gain an advantage, add a human touch. Ask current employees to recommend candidates. Tap your network of contacts for leads and reach out to former employees who’ve left on good terms. If all that sounds daunting, bring in a professional staffing agency to help. Their recruiters can quickly reach more people, including passive candidates — professionals who aren’t actively looking for a new job but would consider it if the right one came along.

Honing the hiring process

You’ve decided on a few promising job applicants. Now you have to keep them interested.

4. Speed up the process and continually communicate. Organizations that take too long to make an offer risk losing candidates to the competition. To shorten the timeline and keep candidates engaged, you should:

  • Hold interviews in quick succession.
  • If possible, compress the process by having everyone who needs to meet the candidate available within the same timeframe on a single day. 
  • Give applicants progress updates to keep them connected.
  • Have everything in place so you can make an immediate offer contingent on a reference check. 

5. Relax some criteria. You’ll be hard-pressed to find candidates who meet your every requirement. That’s why it pays to consider those who have the essential prerequisites but don’t tick every box. The important things to focus on are relevant soft skills, cultural fit and potential for success with on-the-job training. Look for promise, not perfection.

6. Tailor the perks package. Candidates in different life stages want different things. For example, recent graduates appreciate help with student loans and certification exam fees, while parents of young children look for jobs with flexible schedules and telecommuting options. At the negotiation stage of the hiring process, get ready to customize perks for maximum appeal.

Landing a new hire

Money talks. When it’s time to name a salary figure, make sure yours speaks loudly enough to secure your top pick — yet is not so high that it throws your compensation structure or budget out of line.

7. Do your research. You might not know what your competitors offer, but you can consult salary guides and other sources on the latest compensation ranges for your open positions. Be sure to adjust the starting salaries for your city’s cost of living, the complexity of the job and the skill set your top candidate would bring to the job. 

8. Get ready to negotiate. Highly skilled professionals have done their research and know their worth in today’s market. With multiple offers on the table, they’re in a strong position to request higher pay and/or a signing bonus. They may even leverage the offers they’ve received from rival companies. Put your best foot forward and make offers that are going to do everything possible to land your top candidate. 

9. Talk about career pathing. Talented professionals are eager to move up the ladder. If they can’t see themselves getting ahead at your company — and steadily increasing their take-home pay — they will look elsewhere. 

Keeping your top performers

It’s one thing to hire top talent, but savvy hiring managers know it doesn’t end there. Staff retention can be a major challenge when companies get too comfortable and assume their top performers will stick around for the years to come. Career pathing will help improve your retention rate. So will the following strategies.

10. Stay on top of salaries. Make sure you’re offering competitive compensation throughout an employee’s tenure, and not just when they start the job. Offer regular raises to keep up with both the cost of living and employment trends in your field.

11. Invest in your people. Top performers stay at the top only when they have adequate training. Consider helping your staff earn and keep current any kind of certification such as the CPA and even an MBA or other relevant advanced degree. When employees see that you care about their professional development, they will feel like even more valued members of the team.

12. Recognize excellence. Everyone wants to be acknowledged for a job well done or when they go above and beyond. Foster a corporate culture of appreciation through your own actions. Gestures could range from handwritten thank-you notes and public accolades to performance-based bonuses.

Make no mistake, it can be tough out there. Recruiting the right people today means spending more resources and expending more effort than ever before. But in the end, your investment will pay off as you compete to hire – and keep – the talent your company needs to continue growing. 

Steve Saah is the executive director for Robert Half Finance & Accounting.